Four Mobility Mistakes And Upgrades
When I first started working in sports rehab only the extremely dedicated or compulsive did their at home self-care. I never would have thought that if I jumped into Marty McFly’s DeLorean to 2015 that I’d see self-care actually being popular and even have its own subculture. Now gym bags are filled with personalized kits for post workout recovery. You’ll see everything from shakers, athletic tape, lacrosse balls, and other homemade apparatuses.
When I travel from gym to gym and see the time people spend post workout on recovery and it makes me happy. When I see them mindlessly rolling on a foam roller I want to walk up to them and say “please stop you‘re wasting your time and hurting my eyes….and breaks my heart.”
The one’s I really feel for are the dedicated athletes who just can’t get past a nagging injury. One of the first questions I ask them is to explain what they’ve been doing to resolve the problem. I hear story after story of the hours they’ve spent rolling on a lacrosse ball or stretching to no avail. It’s not a lack of dedication or effort. They just need a few small tweaks to make it effective. Before I give you my tips on improving this process here is my disclaimer. If you expect to do the splits, touch your toes, or have muscles as tender as filet mignon you have to earn it. There are no overnight 6 minute solutions that will surpass the daily dedication to a lifelong practice.
Stack Your Toolbox
How many tools does it take to build a house? I think we can all agree that it’s more than one. When I do soft tissue work I use my hands, fingers, elbows, forearms, and even feet. You need some diversity in your toolbox and you don’t have to spend hundreds to do so. Some of my favorite places to get tools from are kids toy stores and dollar stores. You can get balls in all different sizes and shapes. I recommend starting with a ball that is a little softer. If your pressure is too intense you may get a badass badge but more than likely your muscle and nervous system are spending most of the time fighting off the intrusion. Something softer like the High Bounce Pinky will be less invasive to certain areas. Once you’ve graduated to something harder rolling pins, pvc pipes, barbells, and even beer bottles make great tools. Before you go spend the money stack your kit with whatever you can find around the house. #macgyvermobility
You’re Right You Are Too Tight
The number one complaint I get is a reference to tight muscles. It’s very possible the muscle is under too much tension but the definition of ten·sion is the state of being stretched tight. So why are we spending so much time stretching the pain site more or only doing soft tissue work while the muscle is under tension? Try this next time. Put the muscle in a shortened, relaxed position before you start the work. I’m not against stretching but I’d like to see us focusing on getting the tension off the muscle first then worry about restoring full range of motion. There is an orthopedic technique called strain counter strain commonly known as positional release. In positional release the focus is to reset the muscle length by allowing it to rest temporarily in a shortened relaxed position.
Don’t Be A One Trick Pony
Don’t confuse motion and progress — Alfred Armand Montapert
Most of the athletes that come to me already do self-care. They just need a few adjustments to really set it off. Every muscle is 3D so finding different angles will allow you to access fibers that are deep and superficial. Whether it’s a stretch or a self massage add in a series of contracting the muscle then relaxing it. By doing this you will be able to access fibers that are hidden when not contracting. As a bonus after the contraction there is a relaxation phase so you can work deeper without being invasive. To make sure you are maximizing your efforts imagine that you are pushing the ball out as you contract and then feel it sink in as you relax. I coach athletes to do this in sync with their breath.
Doing It All Yourself
When you are on a team it’s about taking care of each other. One of the biggest benefits of having a training partner is having someone who feels your pain. I guess this is where I should give another disclaimer about safety and always use a licensed professional but before the bureaucracy of massage therapy came along it was a community activity. When I went to wrestling camps we would mash each other out after hard practices. The best way to ensure safety and have a successful session is to put your partners well being first, start a dialog, and get comfortable coaching one another. I like this form of massage because athletes who do it have reported back to me that it was more effective then doing it themselves because they could concentrate on relaxing. One of the biggest hurdles is relaxing while doing the work. You want your nervous system, which communicates with the muscle, not to be agitated. I also recommend Thai Massage because you can use your feet allowing you to distribute more pressure without tiring out. I know in the community of massage therapy this may not be a popular thought but massage therapy is trusting the person you are working with and the other half is doing good work. While some have a natural gift it is absolutely teachable.